They’re innovators who bridge the past, present and future within four-walled rooms. They harness technology, textbooks and their own experiences to educate today’s children. And each year, the top ones are named teachers of the year.
The Liberty County Board of Education was slated to announce its teacher of the year Tuesday evening, but the Courier would like to recognize educators selected from each school.
Lewis Frasier Middle
Health and physical education teacher Nichole Tazewell has five years of experience under her belt.
The Honolulu, Hawaii, native moved to Fort Stewart in 1998 with her family.
Tazewell, a graduate of Liberty County High School, attended Valdosta State University on a basketball scholarship and earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology.
“I believe it definitely takes a village to raise a child, and the education system is a large part of that village,” she said. “I look at everything as in a team format, and every player on a good team has a role and responsibility. Our role in the education field and the general public is to love, nurture, care, regulate and teach the whole child.”
Math and science teacher Debbie Walden was among three nominated by the faculty and selected by popular vote. The 29-year veteran now teaches advanced and gifted math to all grades and eighth-grade advanced and gifted Georgia studies, but she also has taught fourth grade through high school.
“Midway Middle School is comprised of a wonderfully caring and highly professional staff,” Walden said. “I am both honored and humbled to be recognized by this staff and to have the opportunity to represent them while doing what I love most: teaching.”
MMS media specialist Christina Dover said Walden’s dedication to her students and the school as well as her ability to engage classes through technology is what led to her nomination.
“Ms. Walden is a team player, always willing to share ideas and lessons. She never hesitates to help out a fellow teacher or volunteer to help during an extracurricular event,” Dover said. “She is a creative, hardworking, compassionate and truly outstanding individual.”
Eighth-grade math and social studies teacher Darrick Smoke was nominated by fellow teachers and selected among finalists by the faculty.
Smoke, a Liberty County native with 19 years of teaching experience, was selected because he is an exceptional, dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled teacher who plans to remain in education, according to SGMS Principal Katrina Byers.
He also inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn and has the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues in addition to playing an active role in the community.
“I have been educated by many of my colleagues of this community and now proudly work along with many of them as an educator,” Smoke said. “This career has been both rewarding and fulfilling in so many ways. Have you ever discovered something you were born to do? I did. I am a teacher who loves his job.”
Social studies department head Ron Daniels, who teaches Tigers of all grades, was selected by two rounds of voting among the teacher body to select teachers who are strong leaders, positive influences and supportive of students.
Daniels, a retired Army field-grade officer who has taught for 11 years, was selected because “he exemplifies an effective teacher,” according to BI Principal Scott Carrier. “He is a leader of both students and staff. He is respected by his department as well by teachers throughout the school.”
When asked about the honor, Daniels said he offers a unique perspective on education because he “beat the odds.”
“By all accounts, I could easily be a negative statistic: raised in a ‘situational poverty’ environment, single parent household (my dad raised nine kids when my mother passed away). I was the youngest of 12 siblings,” he said. “I believe myself to be a product of a strong work ethic and not a product of my life situation or environment.
“I prepare my students for success by helping them achieve the utmost of their academic potential while also impressing upon them their social value to their community — that they should resent any figure of authority that does not expect them to perform like a superstar. By recognizing the uniqueness in each student, the total student is addressed and therefore the whole student is prepared for college or career readiness.”
Liberty County High School
Science teacher and girls’ soccer coach Jarvis McArthur also was among three nominated by the faculty and selected by a ballot process that factors number of years teaching and years taught.
LCHS Principal Paula Scott said McArthur has been in the science department for seven years and teaches biology, but he’s logged more than 19 years in the classroom.
The educator is dynamic and engages students with pictures, information and artifacts that he has collected on worldwide excursions — and it has led to a 92 percent pass rate on the biology end-of-course test.
“He refers to his teaching methods as ‘old school’ because he does not use a lot of technology, but in reality, he teaches using best practices,” Scott said. “He uses a lot of repetition to emphasize important concepts, and he shows examples of good student work from previous semesters so that his students know what is expected of them.”
“It’s an honor knowing that my colleagues think so highly of me, but ‘mi lucha no se acaba’ (my fight never ends),” McArthur said.
To learn which teacher was selected to represent the district, see Friday’s edition of the Courier.